My name is Veronica Balick, and I am going into my junior year at the Mount. This summer, I have had the incredible opportunity of performing cancer research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
My research is focused in immunology, one of the most exciting and fastest-growing fields in cancer research. I am exploring how T cells, one of the types of cells in the immune system, can be engineered to target cancer cells. My lab group is working on leukemia, and we are trying to optimize the design of a specific receptor which we are adding to the T cells. This receptor can recognize a cancer cell and activate the T cell’s killing mechanism; it does not recognize normal healthy cells, making it potentially a safer mechanism to treat cancer with fewer side effects.
Through work on this project, I have learned many lab techniques that will help me greatly as I continue to perform research. Additionally, I have been able to listen to and interact with some of the best scientists and doctors in the world and see the many efforts to prevent and cure all kinds of childhood cancer. My goal after graduating from the Mount is to go to graduate school and pursue a career in cancer research, and this summer has been very eye opening as to what that path looks like. I have worked with graduate students and heard about their experiences, and I have explored where I may want to focus my research efforts in the future.
Living in Memphis for the summer has allowed me to experience many things outside of the lab. Being from Maryland, I am not used to how warm it is down here, but I love all of the Southern charm! The food is spectacular, and the other people in the internship program and I have gone to all of the best barbecue places in Memphis. We’ve experienced a lot of the history of the city, from going to the National Civil Rights Museum to seeing the famous ducks walk the red carpet at the Peabody Hotel.
Overall, this summer has been a wonderful learning experience. I am excited to finish my research project here and come home to the Mount soon!